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BEST TIMES TO SHINE

12:05 PM September 29, 2013

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A first-time Final 4 semifinalist has emerged and topped the list in this edition’s Hits and Misses. The three other qualifiers also got commendations. The league’s new gentle giant preserved his best game of the conference in his team’s most important game thus far. A grizzled veteran has continuously poured on solid numbers while a do-it-all import helped carry his team back to the Final 4. A citation was also given to a player from the losing squad who practically did whatever possible way he can to rally his team, which fell short, however, and got the boot.      

Hits   

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Meralco – For the first time in franchise history, the Bolts have shown enough energy supply that carried them to the semifinals.

Head coach Ryan Gregorio finally found the right group to tow the team to greater heights. They’ve shown a lot of promise this conference, preaching more on defense, which was evident during their quarterfinals meeting with the Barako Bull Energy as they grounded Mike Singletary, the most productive import in the tournament.

Whether the Bolts can attain several more firsts in their franchise history will be determined in their coming semis campaign against the San Mig Coffee Mixers.    

Petron Blaze – Enough of the Petronovela saga. This team is definitely for real – and this time – for good measure.

The Blaze Boosters, the No.1 team at the end of the elimination round, weathered a late rally by sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to formalize their entry to the semifinal round of the Governors’ Cup.  

The team, which looks sharper game by game, is determined to go all the way, thanks to the new system of new head coach Gee Abanilla and his new role players who complemented the present and future stars of the squad.

Rain or Shine – The defending champion Elasto Painters landed right on target – getting to the semifinal round as quickly as possible.

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With import Arizona Reid doing the necessary things that helped his team win, Gilas Pilipinas standouts Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan slowly getting their games back and Ryan Arana contributing at the right time, the Elasto Painters have fortified their title retention aspirations.

But standing on their way next are the Blaze Boosters and for head coach Yeng Guiao, the tall order of beating their semis opponent will determine their future.

San Mig Coffee – Once a struggling team, the Coffee Mixers came right on time to reassert their status as the league’s powerhouse squad.

A string of victories that helped them secure the No.2 spot at the end of the elims, gave them the luxury of having a twice-to-beat incentive.

Although they lost their advantage after being beaten by the Alaska Aces on Wednesday, the Coffee Mixers bounced back strong Friday, using their best weapon they know – defense – which held the Aces to just a 28-percent shooting, enough for them to move on to the next level.   

June Mar Fajardo – This rookie has done nothing but improve his game. All season long, he worked his butt to get better – from his stint with the Gilas Pilipinas team in the FIBA Asia Championship to the extra workout he’s been undergoing with his idol and teammate Danny Ildefonso.

No wonder, when Fajardo stepped on the court in their quarterfinal game against Ginebra, he stood tall and appeared unstoppable, making all but one of his 10 attempts from the field to finish with 20 points and eight rebounds.

His team will be needing his giant effort more in the semifinal round.

Reynel Hugnatan – A tireless worker through the years, this veteran forward has become a symbol of hard work and dedication, traits that coaches would like to see on their players.  

Although he’s no spring chicken, Hugnatan has continuously poured in impressive numbers, this despite playing as an undersized slotman.

In their quarterfinal duel against Barako Bull, Hugnatan finished with 18 points and 12 boards as Meralco became the first team to enter the semifinals of the tournament.    

LA Tenorio – Not all commendations from the hit list comes from the winning side.

But LA Tenorio’s performance is simply hard to pass up even though he fell short of leading the Kings to the semifinal round.

Playing his finest season ever, the 5-foot-9 member of the Gilas Pilipinas team finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, including a perfect 11-for-11 shooting from the foul line.

In their losing cause against the Blaze Boosters, Tenorio tried to rally his team by coming up with yet another solid stats line of 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. But the crowd favorites still fell short.

Marqus Blakely – This man is the league’s newest version of Mr. Everything.

Usually teased because of his below average foul throw shooting percentage, Blakely did almost everything to cover up the lone chink in his armor.

He produced the points, grabbed the rebounds, played defense, provided the hustle and got his teammates better, making a strong case for the Best Import award.

In the Coffee Mixers’ victory over the Aces on Friday night, Blakely’s numbers were staggering – 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, five blocks and four steals.

 

Misses

Talk ‘N Text – For a team that has a rich winning tradition, Talk ‘N Text’s failure to make it to the playoffs for the first time in five years is simply hard to imagine.

With its key players loaned to the Gilas Pilipinas national team obviously worn down after returning to their mother team, the Tropang Texters were never the same again in the Governors’ Cup.

They won only three of nine games and had to fight for their lives in a playoff against the Kings. They were eventually eliminated by the crowd favorites, sending them to an early vacation.   

Alaska – The Aces had a roller-coaster ride in the Governors’ Cup after winning the title in the Commissioner’s Cup.

They were only good as No.7 in the elims, losing to a spoiler Aitr21 Express in their final elimination round assignment.

They nearly did make it to the next round, but fell short against San Mig Coffee. But for head coach Luigi Trillo, this season was a great one overall, even with their failure to make it to the final four this conference.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel – Runner-up last conference, Barangay Ginebra’s game was also up and down in the Governors’ Cup.

Injuries to big men Kerby Raymundo and later on Japeth Aguilar hurt the team’s chances.

Losing to lowly-rated teams like Globalport and Barako Bull and inconsistency were huge for the team. Ut that’s understandable considering the changes the team made, including the naming of its new coach prior to the start of the conference – Ato Agustin.

Mike Singletary – The most productive import has faltered in his team’s last game of the season.

Consistency has virtually been associated with Mike Singletary but during the quarterfinal round when his team needed his production the most, he struggled big time.

He was held to just nine points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field which played a huge factor in their 86-68 loss to the Bolts.

Calvin Abueva – Perhaps, the biggest reason for Alaska’s inconsistent game was the big drop of the game of Calvin Abueva.

The rookie, who became a strong contender for the Best Player of the Conference in the first two conferences, lost his rhythm and on several occasions, lost his cool, too.

In their two games against the Mixers in the quarterfinal round, Abueva faltered both in his game – and in the mind games. He only had averages of 4.5 points and five rebounds and shot just a combined 4-for-19 from the field.

Wendell McKines’ lethargic free throw shooting in Game 2 – Just when everybody thought Marqus Blakely was a bad free throw shooter, his Alaska import was worst – during Game 2 of their quarterfinals showdown.

Blakely went 10-of-22 (45.5%) from the line, which was a slight improvement from his 33-percent clip in the first few games in the tournament.

McKines, in the second game, shot a woeful 6-of-18 (33.3%). (RJ)

 

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